Summer 2015: Newsletter # 4
Thursday, July 16, 2015. Perhaps the best day thus far in the 2015 season – meteorologically speaking. High pressure built into the region the day before, and under the crystal clear skies, the night of the 15th was a chilly one – temperatures down into the forties in our valley, the upper thirties a bit further north. It’s a good thing you sent your boys with sufficient bedding! The morning Polar Bear dip was brisk, to say the least, what with a vigorous, clearing-weather gale whipping down the lake. It sent our usually stoic senior staff dashing from immersion to the bathhouse, whooping and squealing like four-year-olds. We must admit that our own aged toes were a mite numbed.
By the time reveille blew at 7:30, twenty-one Senior campers (including all of Senior 3 and Lake Tent) had been up for four hours. They had been awakened by Trip Counselors Harry Morris and Matt Bolton and Head of Staff Ben Walsh for a sunrise hike up Mt. Cube, a 2800-foot peak just to our northwest, right behind Pemi Hill. Travelling in two vans, they arrived at the Rivendell Trailhead at 3:45 in full darkness, working their way by headlamp up through the woods while the stars blazed unblinkingly high above the leafy canopy. They arrived at the South Summit at about 5, with the eastern sky already consumed in a molten glow, and by quarter past the hour they were ensconced on the quartzite ledges of the North Summit, settling down to watch the sun pop up over the horizon at about 5:20. The temperature was somewhere in the low to mid forties and, with a northwest wind tearing through at 30 or 35 miles per hour, all were glad to have brought the requisite fleeces and Gore-tex jackets. Noshing on Pop-Tarts (not Lewis and Clark grub but sufficient to the moment), they sat there in modest awe as the Trippies boiled up water for hot chocolate and, before Big Sol was more than four or five degrees off the eastern hills, they joined in a steaming toast to brotherhood, effort, and natural beauty. Perhaps they will fill you in on some more details. Meanwhile, we sorely wish we’d been up there with them.
The day featured a big Baker Valley swim meet at Camp Walt Whitman, just up Cape Moonshine Road from us. With so many boys participating in all age groups, it didn’t make sense to organize any routine cabin-based day trips, so Trip Counselor Michael Kerr took names after breakfast for an optional climb up Mt. Moosilauke. The peak is one of those required for a Brave or Chief Award, so a number of stalwart souls signed up for the outing: Ben Caspersen, Mac Hadden, Pierce Haley, Jackson Morrell, and Drew Johnstone. The van trip to the trailhead at the Dartmouth Outing Club Ravine Lodge took about thirty-five minutes, after which they stretched their legs, donned their packs, and headed on up the Gorge Brook Trail, one of the pleasantest in the vicinity for its moderate grade as it meanders along a stream tumbling down over moderate boulders in the shade of white birches. A couple of hours of effort put them on top of the biggest free-standing mountain in New Hampshire, the bane of Appalachian Trail through-hikers for the fact that all of the altitude they gain climbing up to the summit from the little mountain hamlet of Glencliff (2000 feet up to 4800 feet) they loose on the northeast side as they drop down into Kinsman Notch. As our party lunched behind the windbreak provided by the ruined foundations of the old Tip-Top House Hotel, they could see the Adirondacks some ninety miles to the west. The Franconia Range, ten miles to the northeast, looked close enough to touch. After downing their repast of pepperoni, cheddar, crackers, and cookies (with some carrots and celery thrown in for fat-free health), they set off down the path of the old Carriage Road by which Victorian tourists use to ascend to the Tip–Top House in, yes, horse-drawn conveyances. Descending a newly-cut trail just south of the old Snapper Ski Trail, they were met by Driver Ken Morrell and, after a brief stop at a local establishment for soda and candy, they made their way back to camp, tired but happy.
Speaking of tired but happy, a select group of Lower Intermediates arrived back at camp just before lunch, accompanied by Trip Counselor Kim Bradshaw and Assistant Counselor Zach Popkin. Nicky Harwich, Lucas Caramanica, Gus Bachner, Ben Popkin, Nelson Snyder, and Nicky Paris had just spent three days in the Waterville Range, scaling Mt. Osceola in the process. Your correspondent had actually dropped them off Tuesday afternoon amidst showers forecast to be light and fleeting but that had actually settled in with a modest vengeance. Despite the adversity, they managed to set up camp alongside the Mad River that runs down into Waterville Valley and enjoyed a tasty supper and a dry night’s sleep. Wednesday, under the very same clearing skies mentioned above, they made their way up the steep trail that scales the mountain’s eastern buttress, lunching on the top of the East Peak as the last of the clouds scurried off towards Maine. The way back to the campsite took them along the rocky, spruce-studded shores of the Greeley Ponds, two small but pristine mountain lakes tucked into the steep-sided ravine at the head of the Mad River. There are few bodies of water in the state that are as appealing in their remote beauty, and generally trustworthy reports are that the scene was much appreciated by our boys. After a chilly night wrapped up snuggly in their tents, they made it back to camp for lunch on the 16th with lively tales of a deluge survived and a rugged peak ascended. Altogether three days well spent!
Right after said lunch, Andrew McDonald, TH Pearson, and the boys of Upper 3 set off for Greenleaf Hut, high on the shoulder of Mt. Lafayette (5200 feet), kingpin of that same Franconia Range that our crew on Moosilauke could all but touch from the southwest. Ben Burnham, Reed Cecil, Jake Cronin. Teddy Foley, Harrison Green, Michael Kelly, Miles Schiff Stein, and Patrick Snell took the Bridle Path up to the hut, where they thoroughly enjoyed the fabled fare and hospitality of the Appalachian Mountain Club Croo before heading up towards the summit of Lafayette to watch a spectacular sunset. Few pleasures, in our humble opinion, surpass those to be found when you spend a night in a high mountain hostel as the night wind pulls at the eaves and window frames and the stars sparkle brightly overhead in numbers beyond calculation. Dawn brought another gourmet meal and the infamous “blanket-folding-skit” which educates all guests in the official AMC way of handing bedding. After brushing their teeth, filling their water bottles, and re-stuffing their packs, our boys set off again up Lafayette, its summit a mile away and a good thousand feet above the hut. From there, the Franconia Ridge Trail, much of it above tree line, led them down over Mt. Lincoln and Little Haystack, with arresting views of the cliffs of Cannon Mountain and North and South Kinsman to the west (not to mention Mt. Moosilauke) and the whole of the remote Pemigewassett Wilderness to the east. They could easily see Mt. Washington anchoring the Presidential Range, with the tracks of the Cog Railway (all too easy a way up the Northeast’s highest mountain!) clearly visible. Ten years ago, the boys would have seen smoke from the coal-fired steam engines that have gradually been replaced by bio-diesels. What is lost in a scenic sense has, of course, been gained in sustainability.
Hmmmm. In following Andy, TH, and the boys across the ridge, we seem to have gotten to July 17th. Let’s backtrack to the 16th, when the same van that dropped them at Lafayette Place for their ascent to the hut traveled back down Franconia Notch to the scenic Flume, where it picked up the residents of Upper 5, who had begun the same route the day before. Mssrs. Meinke, Seniff, Adams, Allen, Beesley, Bowman, Edlin, Franciskovich, Jones, Katcher, Mangan, and O’Brien may have enjoyed a slightly different menu at the hut than Upper 3, but they too, after supper, pored over the old log books – and found, no doubt, the autographs and comments of Pemi boys, counselors, and even directors of years, decades, and even centuries past. There’s a brotherhood of mates on the day’s trail. There is also the brotherhood of boys experiencing the same rugged paths and gorgeous vistas seventy years after their iPhone-less predecessors. It’s hard to say which is the more compelling!
It feels like we’re nearing our word limit, so let it be said that July 16th also featured al fresco suppers across the lake for Junior 3 and Lower 3, a night at the shelter on Pemi Hill for Lower 6, and a pre-Allagash whitewater training paddle on the Pemigewassett River for Will Raduziner, Andre Altherr, Kevin Green, Patterson Malcolm, Greg Nacheff, Andrew Virden, Ezra Nugiel, and Sam Berman. Under the vigilant eye of staff members Reed Harrigan (former White Mountain National Forest Ranger) and Matt Bolton (who will lead the trip to Maine), these eight put the finishing touches on weeks of training for the Allagash. The next day, Reed and Matt took out the other eight participants who equally enjoyed a fun and edifying afternoon on the water, getting comfortable with the conditions that will prevail under Churchill Dam when they put in just before this reaches you. As for their progress beginning Monday down their wilderness waterway, more perhaps to follow – either from us or from the horses’ own mouths!
So, there’s a glimpse of July 16, 2015 – an “average day” for the Pemi Trip Program, with something between a third and two fifths of the camp population involved. Oh, by the way, we also do sports, nature studies, the arts, and music here! We trust, though, that some wonderful memories were made outdoors on that eventful Thursday in the White Mountains. We also suspect there were some valuable lessons either learned or reaffirmed: lessons about fastidious preparation; about personal commitment and perseverance; about patience and encouragement; about both respecting and appreciating the remarkably beautiful setting in which we find ourselves. It was not at all a bad way to spend twenty-four hours!
- Tom and Danny